Texas v. California. This Time With the Lights On

For the last several years, the comparisons have been repeated aplenty.  Texas is beating California, outcompeting, and outgrowing.  And hey, look at California’s budget deficit, it’s huge and they are irresponsible.  

I lived in Texas for most of my life, and I certainly don’t mean to disparage it.  But, as Bill Lockyer says, it’s time for the state to get spotlight for a while.

Texas has a two-year budget cycle, which allowed it to camouflage its red ink last year, thanks in large part to billions of dollars in federal stimulus money. Now, however, “someone just turned the lights on in the bar, and the sexiest state doesn’t look so pretty anymore,” said California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, with evident satisfaction. (LA Times)

That spotlight comes in the form of a $27 billion budget deficit, larger as a percentage of the deficit than our own.  At the same time, you have elected leaders who will apparently put their own career before the best interests of the state, even when you toss in some torture:

“A lot of the things we are doing arguably aren’t priorities for the people of Texas,” he said. “People could stake me and Gov. Perry on the ground and torture us, and we still would not raise taxes.”

Dewhurst provides some examples of bloat, like millions of dollars spent to put sand on beaches for tourists. But the real savings in the legislative budget plan come from slashing Medicaid and cutting per-student spending from more than $9,000 to $7,800 each year. The state’s cap of 22 students per elementary school class is almost certain to be lifted.

Well, maybe if he’s not on the ground? I’ve seen those FauxNews waterboarding videos, those people break pretty quickly.

At any rate, the bigger question is one of approach. For years, California invested in education, and reaped those rewards.  We are still coasting on our past investments, our educated workforce, and all that jazz.  But that can’t sustain us for much longer.  

Meanwhile, Texas went the opposite direction, luring businesses from elsewhere with a race to the bottom technique.  They will provide you the lowest level of services possible.  Sure, the taxes are low, but I hope you enjoy paying for toll roads and private schools.  Oh, you can’t afford them, well, enjoy the back of the bus.  Income inequality ain’t so bad.  Oh, and that “mini-boom” they are building, well, they are hurting now too.

At some level, this is more than repaid Schadenfreude. It’s a basic conversation about the role of government.  Perry and the gang want you to believe that a survival of the fittest environment will make us all into machines ready to fight tomorrow’s battles.  But the facts tell a different story.  Both states are backsliding into mediocrity, and both states are trying to cut their way into the future.

Unfortunately, you can’t “win the future” if you are too busy “slashing the present.”

4 thoughts on “Texas v. California. This Time With the Lights On”

  1. Couldn’t have happened to a more arrogant, insufferable state.  At least we Californians have the good decency to be a bit embarrassed by our political system, at least until we pick up our prescribed pot and hit the waves.

  2. Hopefully I’ll be able to escape Texas with my biotech certificate in hand, and look west for work opportunities as hospitals and research places I leave behind are cut to the bone and then some.

  3. And wouldn’t that be a relief? If I had a nickel for every time, I could almost fill the budget hole in either state. But us dumb liberals have long held that you couldn’t cut your way to the top. Now we see it’s true.

    And this is just the beginning. In two more years, when Texas does their next budget, we’re likely to see the cascade effect of the cuts they’ll probably make. Because Medicaid and education spending qualifies for federal matching funds, cutting there will likely cost them more than they save–blowing an even bigger hole in the next budget.

    As an opinion piece in today’s L.A. Times points out, Texas has a higher employment rate than California. But many of the jobs they attracted with their low taxes are low-wage jobs with no benefits. These are not jobs that will help grow the state economy, or save the state budget. They look good on paper. But they won’t win the future.

Comments are closed.